The Legacy of the Pullman Porters

Hollis BoweNPF Blog
Pullman National Monument building

On February 19, 2016, Pullman National Monument celebrates its one-year anniversary! The park protects and preserves the incredible story of the Pullman Company, the Pullman Porters, and the rise of the labor movement in America.

The Pullman Company hired African American men as porters, known as Pullman Porters. The Pullman Porters were uniformed railway men who served first-class passengers traveling in the company’s luxurious sleeping cars. These jobs became well respected in the African American community and have become synonymous with the railroad company’s impeccable service and style.

In celebration of Pullman’s anniversary, NPF interviewed a person who was part of its story: Lee Gibson.

Lee Gibson young and older

In 1936, Lee Gibson joined the Union Pacific Railroad as a coach attendant. In the late 1960s, he was promoted to Pullman Porter. Today, at 106, Gibson is the oldest surviving Pullman Porter.

What Gibson loved most about the job was getting to travel across the country and see new places. He also loved meeting new people, which included celebrities like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

Lee Gibson closeup and legacy pictures

Gibson’s family loved hearing all of the new stories he collected each time he went out on the rails. His experience, knowledge, and brushes with a celebrity made him “the coolest” to his three daughters.

Gibson’s story is one of many told at Pullman National Monument. This national park, the first in Chicago, IL, was made possible thanks to the generous support from individuals, foundations, and corporations, including The Union Pacific Foundation.

Lee Gibson receiving plaque

Have you visited Pullman National Monument? Take a trip to the park and share your experiences with the hashtag #FindYourPark and #EncuentraTuParque.

All photos courtesy of the Gibson Family

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